Being The First Transgender Officer In The British Army
January 21, 2015
For some, coming out as transgender has meant all plans for the future are put on hold. People are still struggling to come to terms with gender identity and just what is means if someone is transgender.
Surprisingly, it seems that the British Army are leading the way for those who are transgender and still wanting to achieve, as the British Army’s first transgender officer speaks out about her life “living a lie” and her army career.
Born a boy
Realising you are transgender can be scary. You have spent your life being told you are one gender when you know, deep inside, that you aren’t. You feel trapped in a body that doesn’t suit you and trying to change it can be a challenge.
“Society says to you that young boys play with trucks and wear blue and I just never really fell into that category,” says Hannah Winterbourne, the British Army’s first transgender officer. “As I got older those feelings became more solidified, then around the age of puberty you begin to understand a little more about gender… I thought ‘this is wrong for me, I’m actually female’.”
However, it wasn’t until she was on tour in Afghanistan that she realised her life needed to change, as she didn’t belong with the seven men “living on top of each other” in a tent in the desert.
“In Afghanistan I was living an act, I was acting for everyone around me.”
I can only imagine what it must be like to finally decide to make the change that will make you happy. I have a huge amount of respect for those who are transgender, as they have the confidence to do what they can to make themselves more comfortable and confident in their own skin.
“You don’t know how the world is going to react. The fear sits on top of you and buries you. It is hard to claw your way out of it,” Winterbourne said in a recent interview.
However, to her surprise others were very accepting of her. “People see a female and they interact with me as a female. It has given me self-confidence.”
To be honest, when I first heard about this story I thought that she would perhaps have left the army and been forced out, as they do have a bit of a reputation of being closed-minded and traditional in their views.
Winterbourne also worried about the same, but was stunned to discover that the army actually had an employment policy for transgendered people since 1999. That meant she could continue doing the job she loved.
Being able to be herself in a job she loves must have been a huge weight off her shoulders. No more pretending, no more lying, just being herself and happy.
She is the highest ranking soldier in the British Army, which will hopefully pave the way for others. It just goes to show that your life doesn’t end because you are transgender – if anything that is when your life can really begin. What do you think of Hannah’s brave story?
Personally, I wish her and others in her position the best of luck. It just goes to show that we are capable of anything and are a much more accepting society.